Undeterred by the exposure of his use of a phony Abraham Lincoln quote, Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney has redoubled his attack on dissent, as Greg Sargent pointed out. In a column last Tuesday, Gaffney dredges up a new Lincoln quote attacking "agitators" during the Civil War who were arrested for fomenting rebellion and uses this as the pretext for another vitriolic attack on dissent as treasonous:
It is fitting that we reflect carefully on Abe Lincoln's insights and strong words, not just because this is the time of year we celebrate his remarkable life and momentous presidency. His views are all the more salient as congressional "agitators" once again justify their vehement opposition to the incumbent president's war efforts with denunciations of "a wicked Administration of a contemptible Government." Now, as then, they threaten the adequacy of the military force needed to "suppress" a violent insurgency. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, today as in 1863, the very "life of the nation" hangs in the balance if we fail to defeat the coming nexus of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Islamofascists.
These parallels were the subject of an extraordinary December 2003 Insight Magazine article where the paraphrase of Lincoln's views was inadvertently transformed by a copy editor into a quote. Improbably, and unbeknownst to me when I wrote my column last week, the article's author was none other than a colleague at the Center for Security Policy, J. Michael Waller. The full article (which can be viewed at http://fourthworldwar.blogspot.com/2003/12/when-does-politics-become-treason.html) should be required reading for those who wish to participate responsibly in a debate about where to draw the line between legitimate dissent and unacceptable treachery, if not actual treason, on the part of legislators ever-more-stridently opposed to the present war effort.
As Mr. Waller observed, there clearly is a distinction to be drawn between constructive disagreement about the conflict in Iraq and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The former can be compatible with a genuine commitment to the troops and to their success, as well as their safety. It would, however, require the dissenters to propose other strategies for victory -- not simply the use of code-words for defeat, like "redeployment" and "regional diplomacy."
It is highly ironic that many of those most critical of President Bush for not having a "plan" for post-invasion Iraq are conspicuously quiet about what would happen after their plan for retreat is adopted. They seem irresponsibly unconcerned about the prospect that, after America capitulates, there would be genocidal mayhem in Iraq, creation of a new safe-haven for terrorism there and a general emboldening of our enemies around the world.
Such behavior is even more intolerable when compounded by today's "agitators" demeaning the troops they profess to support -- notably, by comparing them to Nazis, terrorists, rapists and the killing fields -- and threatening to deny them (through one device or another) the means required to accomplish their mission. In the offing are new legislative initiatives aimed at limiting the authority given to the president in 2002 to achieve Iraq's liberation and tying his hands with respect to the growing threat from Iran -- even that the regime in Tehran is currently posing to our troops fighting next door in Iraq.
These critics, particularly members of Congress, must be held accountable for such destructive dissent. Our enemies believe their strategy for achieving a political victory by wearing down the United States is succeeding. They are redoubling their efforts as they perceive the rising power of irresponsible anti-war "agitators."
Abraham Lincoln understood the difference between constructive dissent and treacherous agitation. There is no mistaking his determination to "silence" the latter through means he judged to be constitutional. The question occurs: Will it take some further, even more catastrophic attack here at home -- an attack made more likely by the irresponsible behavior of today's agitators -- to silence their defeatism and reunify the country behind a necessary program for victory?
In this passage, Gaffney comes very close to calling for treason prosecutions for those war opponents who fail to propose alternative strategies for "victory." He comes dissenters to Confederate "agitators" who actively sought to overthrow the Union; suggests they are engaged in "unacceptable treachery, if not actual treason" unless they oppose withdrawal from Iraq; and suggests it will take another 9/11 to "silence their defeatism." It's awful stuff.
And lest anyone think Gaffney's views are irrelevant, check out this question from the most recent AP poll:
14. Do you think it is right or wrong for opponents to criticize the war in Iraq?
-Right, 63 percent
-Wrong, 34 percent
-Not sure, 3 percent
The question is imprecisely worded (some people could be saying "wrong" because they support the war), but it's still troubling that 34 percent of Americans say dissent against the war is "wrong."